This is the time of year when Daddy would normally begin to gather fresh produce from the garden, bring it inside in baskets or boxes, and help Mama start preparing it for canning or freezing. Some of their bounty would always be spread out on the island counter. There would be talk of the harvest and the work to be done. I'd occasionally get a call from one of them telling me that I needed to come down and get some tomatoes, squash, beans or peas and those huge cabbages only Daddy knows how to grow. Sometimes it would all be waiting for me in plastic grocery sacks ready to bring home. At other times, Daddy and I would grab a box or two and head out to the field. Over the years, we've had some great talks together, he and I, while picking peas, pulling corn, cutting okra or harvesting whatever was ready to use. [Daddy and I have also had some intense conversations while fishing at the pond on their old property. But, that's a story for another day.]
During the colder months, my father suffers from the winter blues. Mama diagnosed him with it years ago. He doesn't like the shorter days, nor does he like the cold. He is miserable all winter long. There's just not much for him to accomplish during those cold winter months. Mama recognized the fact that, even though she was not physically able to preserve all of his plentiful crops, he needed to plant and work in the garden for his own preservation. So, they always had enough for themselves and much to share. And share they did. Neighbors, friends and family enjoyed the literal fruits of their labors. When the crops were especially generous, and we all had our fill, the excess would be placed in containers by their driveway for others to stop and collect. Nothing would go to waste.
The garden and kitchen seem so quiet right now, at my Daddy's house. I miss the sound of my Mama's voice as she tells me what all Daddy has planted and reminds me how much he loves his gardens and how good it is for him to be outside in the beautiful healing light of the sun. Mama told me once she was afraid that we (us kids) would blame her if Daddy were to die while working out in the hot sun. I told her, as I think my brothers and sister had echoed, "If Daddy dies doing something that he enjoys so much, there is no better way for him to go! Let him do it!"
Daddy told me about three weeks ago that he was just going to plant some green beans this year, for my sister. She had told him she needed some. "I don't know what she did with all those beans she canned last year and the year before," he said to me. My sister knew what she was doing when she asked him to plant those beans for her. She knew that it wasn't the green beans that were important or necessary. It was the motivation Daddy needed to get out in the field, plow and plant, nurture and harvest, and share. Since then, he's also planted tomatoes and peas, and I'm sure filled row after row with the seeds of his existence. And, watered them with his tears......
When I bite down into that ripe, juicy tomato that Daddy put his heart and soul into protecting and providing for me to enjoy, I will continue to thank my Father in Heaven for this great man, my Daddy, and for the strength He has blessed him with to (hopefully) work another spring and summer in his gardens, reaping more than a bountiful harvest.
You can do this, Daddy. I love you.
As of today, the 4th of June, the garden has been plowed, but Daddy's decided to wait until next year to plant after all..... He's really trying to do the best he can.